To be eligible for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), otherwise known as permanent settlement, you must complete the qualifying residence period in the UK. The qualifying period will depend on the route you are applying for. Usually, the qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain will be 2, 5 or 10 years. You must reside in the UK for the relevant qualifying period, and excess absences may break your continuous residence.
In addition to demonstrating continuous residence, you must prove certain validity, suitability and eligibility criteria that form part of the ILR requirements.
This post discusses what constitutes continuous residence for indefinite leave to remain under Appendix Continuous Residence, permitted absences and how continuous residence can be broken.
To discuss your settlement application with an experienced immigration adviser, contact our team on 0208 757 5751 or complete our contact form.
What does continuous residence mean?
Your most recent grant of permission must have been on the UK settlement route you are applying for. This rule applies to all ILR routes except UK Ancestry and children born in the UK, applying under the Appendix Settlement Family Life or Appendix Private Life.
To demonstrate continuous residence, you must prove that your residence is lawful under the relevant permission granted and that you have not been absent for more than 180 days in any 12 months unless for the reasons permitted. Time spent in the UK on other routes may be combined to meet the qualifying period for ILR.
For example, Skilled Workers must have lived in the UK for five consecutive years before applying for SET O Settlement. If you have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 months for reasons not permitted, your continuous residence may have been interrupted. When applying for Skilled Worker Settlement, you can include time spent on other work routes such as any Tier 1 Visa, Scale-up Worker, Innovator, Global Talent or Representative of an overseas business.
Qualifying Period For Indefinite Leave to Remain
ILR applicants who are in the UK on one of the routes listed below must demonstrate a specified period of lawful continuous residence:
|Visa Route||ILR Qualifying period|
|Skilled Worker or Tier 2 (General)||5 Years|
|T2 Minister of Religion or Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)||5 Years|
|International Sportsperson or T2 Sportsperson or Tier 2 (Sportsperson)||5 Years|
|Representative of an Overseas Business or Media Representative or Sole Representative||5 Years|
|UK Ancestry||5 Years|
|Dependant Partner on the UK Ancestry route||0 Years|
|Global Talent or Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)||3 Years|
|Domestic Worker in a Private Household||5 Years|
|T5 (Temporary Worker) International Agreement Worker and (Private Servant in a Diplomatic Household)||5 Years|
|Hong Kong British National (Overseas)||5 Years|
|Dependent Partner or Household Member (adult child) on the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Route||5 Years|
|Appendix Settlement Family Life||10 Years|
|Appendix Private Life||7 Years|
Calculating Continuous Residence
The continuous residence period requiring the applicant not to have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month rolling period will need to be calculated by counting back from whichever of the following dates is the most beneficial to the applicant:
- the date of application
- any date up to 28 days after the date of application
- the date of the decision, or
- for a person seeking settlement on the UK Ancestry route, the date of their last grant of permission.
If the qualifying period includes permission granted before 11 January 2018, any absences during that period of permission will be considered in consecutive 12-month periods ending on the date of application. Absences from the UK during permission granted on or after 11 January 2018 are considered on a rolling basis from the date of departure over any 12 months. Only whole days are counted as absences. Part-day absences are not counted.
Permitted absences that do not break continuous residence
If an absence is for one of the following reasons, it will not count towards the 180-day limit:
- the applicant was assisting with a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis overseas, providing if applicable, their sponsor agreed to the absence for that purpose;
- travel disruption due to natural disasters, military conflict or pandemics (including the COVID-19 pandemic);
- compelling and compassionate personal circumstances, such as the life-threatening illness of the applicant or the life-threatening illness or death of a close family member;
- sponsor-approved research activity undertaken by a Skilled Worker and where the applicant was sponsored for a job in one of the various specified occupation codes, including chemical scientists; biological scientists and biochemists; physical scientists; social and humanities scientists; natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified; research and development managers; and higher education teaching professionals;
- a person who undertakes research activity on the Global Talent route and was endorsed by either The Royal Society; The British Academy; The Royal Academy of Engineering; or UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Absences due to employment, whether related to the applicant’s job in the UK or not, count towards the 180-day maximum each year.
Documents for Continuous Residence
Indefinite Leave to Remain applicants must be able to prove that they have continuously resided in the UK to meet the qualifying ILR residence requirement. The application may be refused if an applicant fails to prove their continuous residence.
The applicant must provide evidence in the form of a letter which sets out the reason for the absence with documents of support. For example:
- medical certificates
- birth or death certificates
- evidence of disruption to travel arrangements.
If the absences are connected to other employment outside the UK, which demonstrates that UK employment is secondary, these are not permitted absences, and the continuous period requirement is broken.
How can we help
Our specialist immigration team can advise and guide you through your settlement application process. Call our team on 02087575751 or use our contact form to get in touch with us.
Frequently asked questions
Appendix Continuous Residence under the Immigration Rules describes how the continuous residence requirement is met when applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Yes, time spent with leave extended by law under Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 may count as time in the UK with permission on the relevant route to calculate continuous residence.